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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Baptism 3…

Wow, popular topic. Well, Anon requires a more lengthy response, as such, will wait Anon’s turn.

The Big Stink… Want to clarify something for me?
When you say, “Don't confuse man's interpretation of Scripture with God's commands. We are called to His presence through the Spirit, not the letter of the law. That's what Jesus' ministry was all about,” are you accusing Lutherans of adding works to salvation and calling baptism a work of man rather then what it is, a work of God, or are you taking everything Anon has said and stating that opinion is works based? And if it is I who has an improper interpretation of scripture, please explain further. I do not believe baptism is following “man made law,” rather I believe baptism is part of the Great Commission. “Make DISCIPLES of all nations BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, TEACHING them to obey.” I believe baptism is necessary for discipleship, as such is not a work of man or part of man’s interpretation of scripture.

It is through Grace which we enter. It is not through deeds. The planet is littered with churches who have interpreted the Bible as a roadmap for social justice. It's not. It is a manual for insight and a grasp of the Spirit by which we can grasp that salvation is a gift and not something one earns. If it is a gift for adults, why is it not a gift for small children or "diminished" people who would have no conscious grasp of a Spirit.”

I don’t think Anon or I have offered an argument that the Bible is a roadmap to social justice. I have argued this in the past, but have repented. I also agree that it is by Grace we have been saved, but as scripture says, this Grace and Faith are both gifts of God, and I can obtain neither through my own efforts. I have a problem with your statement on scripture as a manual for insight… I believe it is more then that. I believe Scripture is the very word of God, Holy and inerrant, as such requires more respect and reverence and awe then described. If I am misinterpreting your statement, please clarify.

Furthermore, I agree, baptism is a gift for small children, and now for Anon.

There is not one single place anywhere in the Bible recording the baptism of a child. Not one! When Philip was baptizing (Acts 8:12), it says, “they were baptized, both men and women.” There is no mention of children being baptized in this account. Children are simply not mature enough to comprehend baptism.

But are children capable of being disciples? Obviously a parent who obeys the word of God is teaching their children to obey, why is baptism denied small children when it is part of the Great Commission?

Anon continues by imposing comprehension of all aspects of the Bible in order for a person to be saved, such as a comprehension of end-time theology, symbolism of baptism, the gift of God’s Spirit, plus, the ability to make a commitment to follow Christ.

Scripture States that when I was a child, I thought like a child and acted like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish things behind. Certainly, this is true, however further in I Cor. 13, Paul talks about how we see an ill vision and later in Heaven we will fully understand all. If Anon is imposing complete understanding on people to be saved, then I am afraid the Apostle Paul isn’t saved.

Also, as Anon points out, the requirements of salvation include repentance and belief. OK I can’t object there, on surface, but Jesus didn’t include proper end of the world beliefs as a requirement for salvation. And the disciples didn’t fully understand what Jesus was talking about when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of Heaven and the end of the world. So, Jesus must not have considered such comprehension important.

Babies have nothing to repent of? Psalms 51 says they do. I actually think, and I have good argument that perhaps this is indeed the case, that it is probably better to have the child-like view of repentance, apologize and get on with life. My evidence is Jesus tells his disciples that they should have the faith of a child, and children accept their sins are forgiven. I agree, they do not comprehend the magnitude of their sin, the gravity of Hell, and such things, but isn’t even a little acknowledgement of wrong enough, since earlier Anon concludes that belief and repentance are necessary for salvation? Jesus didn’t impose a set amount of belief. I’m not going to.
I am not capable of seeing all of the symbolism in baptism. However, in the case of Peter and the Gentiles in Acts 10, scripture does not specify that comprehension of the symbolism of baptism was a requisite for the baptism of Gentiles.

I will agree scripture does not say, “Men, women, and infants” were baptized, however, scripture does not say comprehension was a mandate either.

Anon says, “Children are no more likely to endure the commitment involved in becoming a true follower of Jesus Christ than they are committed to marrying any boyfriend or girlfriend that they may have had in their young lives.”

I was 24 when I got married. I did not understand the commitment it would take to be married to my husband when he went off to war. In fact, my husband’s military commitment was three weeks away from being over when we said our vows. I didn’t know he’d re-enlist later. I didn’t know he would go off to Iraq and leave for 21 months. But God gave me the faithfulness and endurance for such a commitment.

Now, I agree, children and I would add most adults do not comprehend what they will have to endure for the sake of Christ, or at lease American children and adults do not. My guess is in China, Muslim countries, and other totalitarian states, kids know very well that belief leads to a violent death. My guess is things can and will get worse for American Christians, however, and at that time, we will know the true converts from those who are merely expressing warm fuzzies for Jesus.

Age 18 is the minimum age at which a person is capable of grasping what baptism means. Adults should not delay upon reaching repentance, but young people should delay, sometimes several years before taking the step of baptism.”

And here we go. Where, pray tell, in the Bible does the age of 18 mean a hill of beans? 18 is a man made law, which you are accusing me of, Anon. And isn’t this a double standard here. Adults should not delay… what if adults are not properly taught what baptism is, Anon? Do they have to do it over?

Young people need to know beyond any shadow of doubt that they have repented. Otherwise, they will lack the necessary confidence later that God has given them His Holy Spirit.” I am going to place words into your mouth, so please correct me if I’m wrong, Anon, and no disrespect is intended. Anon believes that we can choose to follow Jesus at an initial prayer of repentance, often called a sinner’s prayer. And the sincerity of intent behind that prayer is important. Do you REALLY REALLY with ALL your HEART and SOUL repent of your sins and intend on making Jesus Lord of your life?

I struggled with this most of my childhood. You see, I said the sinners prayer when I was 8-years-old. And every time I subsequently sinned, I believed that I didn’t really mean what I prayed. I was burdened, under this theology, that I wasn’t going to Heaven because my efforts at living a sanctified life, and I give you Rdr. Christopher and Kara , and also HG as those who can testify that I tried really hard to live a sanctified life, all had failed.

Not until I really started to understand how scripture is to be rightly interpreted, did I receive assurance of salvation. I do what I do not want to do and I do not do what I want to do. And any goodness that is within me is that which God has placed through Christ Jesus. Once I was free from my burdens, once I realized that I was going to sin, and when I do, all I had to do was repent and move on, then did Christian life in its fullest begin for me.

Anon, though I don’t think it is Anon’s intent, places a lot of uncertainty even upon adults. Was I really sincere that time I repented of this particular sin? And the answer is always filled with doubt.

Anon closes with: “The path that we will travel on the way to the kingdom of God will require us to know with absolute certainty that we have God’s Spirit in us, helping us in every time of need!” I believe this certainty comes with remembering my baptism, and I was baptized at the age of 14, was that too young, Anon? Anyway, the assurance comes through remembering my baptism and receiving absolution each Sunday in liturgy.


  • At 8:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Infant Baptism: Its History and Its Harm
    By the late Dr. William Pettingill
    I am convinced that believers should be baptized in water. If I were compelled to choose, I would unhesitatingly say, “no water baptism” rather than the baptism of infants. Happily, I am not thus compelled to choose between two evils, but am free to walk in the light as I see the light.
    It is my purpose in this article to set forth my reasons for saying, as I have often said, that infant baptism is responsible for sending more people to Hell than any other cause. From my point of view it is a dreadful thing to baptize a baby and let him grow up believing that by that baptism he has been saved and is on his way to Heaven. “To the law and to the testimony”!
    Infant baptism has no warrant in the Scriptures. Many efforts have been made to find such warrant, but these efforts are too feeble to merit serious consideration. But did not the Lord Jesus say, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me”? Yes, He did; and there is no objection to suffer them to come unto Him. The question here is the bringing of infants who are too young to come by themselves. There is no authority for such a thing.
    Baptismal Regeneration
    In church history there is no record of infant baptism until the year 370. And how did it come about? It resulted from the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, the teaching that baptism is essential to salvation. It was natural for those holding this teaching to believe that everybody should be baptized as soon as possible, and so baptism of unconscious infants came into vogue among many of the churches. These two grievous errors, baptismal regeneration and infant baptism, according to reliable historians, have caused more bloodshed and persecution than all other errors combined.
    It is reliably estimated that over fifty million Christians were put to death during the “Dark Ages” covering twelve or thirteen centuries, mainly because they rejected these two errors and insisted that salvation was the gift of God, apart from works or ceremonies.
    The professed conversion of Emperor Constantine in 313 A.D. was looked upon by many as a great triumph for Christianity. As a matter of fact, it was the greatest tragedy of church history. It resulted in the union of church and state and the establishment of an hierarchy which afterward developed into the Roman Catholic system, which of course is not the church of God at all, but a hateful counterfeit of it. It is doubtful that Constantine was ever truly converted. At the time of his supposed vision of the sign of the cross he “promised to become a Christian,” but he was not baptized until near death, having postponed the act in the belief that baptism washed away all past sins, and he wanted all his sins to be in the past tense before he was baptized.
    In the year 416 infant baptism was made compulsory throughout the Roman Empire by law. This, of course, filled the churches with unconverted members who had only been “baptized into favor,” and whatever power the church had retained was now gone. The world was plunged into the gloom of the Dark Ages, which endured for more than twelve centuries, until the Reformation. But all the time, from the beginning of the church age, God always had a remnant remaining faithful to Him. They never consented to the union of church and state, or to baptismal regeneration, or to infant baptism.
    These nonconformists were not a sect, and they were not even called Christians. Indeed, it became illegal for them to be called Christians or to call themselves Christians. They bore nicknames, depending sometimes upon a leader’s name, or the name of their locality. They were Montanists, Novatians, Paulicans, Arnoldists, Henricians, Petrobrusians, Waldenses, Paterines, Albigenses, Studist, etc.; but their generic name was Anabaptist, meaning re-baptizers, for they ignored infant baptism and rebaptized those who had been saved through personal faith. They also had a generic name for themselves: they called themselves Antipedobaptists, meaning opponents of infant baptism.
    A Hangover From Rome
    When the Reformation came, these Anabaptists or Antipedobaptists did all they could to help the Reformers; but when the Reformers came into power they turned against the Anabaptists and persecuted them as Rome had done and continued to do; and thus the troubles of the Anabaptists were increased instead of diminished, for now they had persecutors on both sides — from Romanism on one hand and from Protestantism on the other.
    All honor to the great Reformers, but the truth must be told that in their reform they brought with them out of Rome the two hateful errors union of church and state and infant baptism; and moreover when they had the power in their hands because of this union of church and state, they themselves became popes in their own realm and persecuted those who would not conform to their ways.
    The Lutheran church became the established church of Germany, and persecuted the Anabaptists for nonconformity. While Zwingli held power in Switzerland the Senate passed a law making infant baptism compulsory and providing that “if any presume to rebaptize those who were baptized before, they should be drowned”; and at Vienna many Anabaptists were so tied together in chains that one drew the other after him into the river, wherein they were all suffocated.
    Calvin in his field, Cromwell in England, Knox in Scotland — these all stuck to the union of church and state and infant baptism, and used their power, when they had power, to seek to force others to conform with their own views.
    Before the Massachusetts Bay Colony was twenty years old, it was decreed by statute that “if any person or persons within this jurisdiction shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart from the congregation at the administration of the ordinance — after due time and means of conviction — every such person or persons shall be subject to banishment.”
    By the authorities in this colony Roger Williams and others were banished, when banishment meant to go and live with the Indians. This Williams did and was received kindly and dwelt with them for some time, and after days it was shown that he had saved the Massachusetts Bay Colony from utter destruction by the Indians by his earnest pleadings in behalf of the Colony which had banished him.
    Church and State
    And it was in the constitution of the Rhode Island Colony, founded by Roger Williams, John Clarke and others, that religious liberty was established by law for the first time in thirteen hundred years. Thus it was that Rhode Island, the first Baptist Colony, established by a small group of believers, was the first spot on earth where religious liberty became the law of the land. The settlement was made in 1638, and the Colony was legally established in 1663. The second place was Virginia in 1786.
    Congress declared the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States to be in force on December 15, 1791, which granted religious liberty to all citizens; and Baptists are credited with being the leaders in bringing this blessing to the nation. If that be true, they proved themselves to be worthy successors of their Anabaptist or Antipedobaptist forebears.
    But, it may be asked, what has all this to do with us? Has it any practical bearing upon us in our day? And here is the answer: The union of church and state continues today in most of the countries of the world. In these “state churches” they “christen” babies, which means they make them Christians. The average Briton, for example, thinks he is on the way to Heaven. Wasn’t he christened in infancy, and hasn’t he been taught all these years that that saved him, and isn’t he a member of the same church with the king? What more could you ask?
    Are Unbaptized Infants Lost?
    And what about this country? Let us see:
    The Roman Catholic teaches baptismal regeneration and practices infant baptism. In its statement of doctrine it says: “The sacrament of baptism is administered to infants or adults by pouring of water and the pronouncement of the proper words, and cleanses from original sin.”
    The Reformed church says: “Children are baptized as heirs of the Kingdom of God and of His covenant.”
    The Lutheran church teaches that baptism, whether of infants or adults, is a means of regeneration. Martin Luther himself, when asked whether unbaptized infants are lost, said: Not lack of contempt for, the sacrament condemns. I hope that when little children are denied baptism without their fault, and the command of Christ and prayer are not despised, the kind and merciful God will graciously remember them. Let their souls be left in the hands of and at the will of their Heavenly Father, who, as we know, is merciful.” Mind, he says only “I hope.” Not a very good foundation for faith. Mr. Luther should have done better than that.
    The Episcopal church teaches plainly that salvation comes through infant baptism. In his confirmation the catechist answers a question about his baptism in infancy by saying, “in my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of God.”
    This is printed in the Prayer Book and may be seen there by anyone interested enough to look for it. The fact is that most people who practice infant baptism believe that the ceremony has something to do with the salvation of the child.
    We have left the commandment of God to follow the traditions of men. and the end is awful to contemplate.

  • At 9:53 AM , Blogger Eric said...

    It is impossible to deny the apostolic nature of infant baptism without also affirming some sort of monumental conspiracy to bring infant baptism into the church. These conspiracy theories take on many forms. Perhaps infant baptism was imposed on the church by political powers for political purposes, or perhaps the church was led away into the supposedly unbiblical concept of "baptismal regeneration." No matter how early in the history of the church you find evidence for infant baptism, some Baptist will produce a grand conspiracy theory explaining how this practice was introduced against the clear teaching of Christ's apostles and the "New Testament" church.

    You ignore the conspiracy theorists when they explain how President Kennedy was killed. You ignore them when they explain how Jesus wasn't. And you should also ignore them when they explain the introduction of infant baptism. All of these explanations are born out of an unholy and dishonest agenda.

  • At 6:42 AM , Blogger TKls2myhrt said...

    Good job at defending the faith, Liz. People who deny that baptism saves all also deny God's ability to initiate saving faith in a soul. I firmly believe that denying that baptism saves even infants is akin to Adam and Eve's failure in the Garden of Eden; both involve doubting that God is who is said He is and doubting what He said. It's listening to the serpent as he tells you that you can become like God by choosing truth for yourself.

    Have you seen my favorite summary of what God works in baptism - straight out of scripture? Please check out the interesting article on the miracle of holy baptism at Confessing Evangelical's blog.

  • At 12:02 PM , Blogger Liz said...

    Thanks! I'll take a look at it!

  • At 3:12 PM , Anonymous Alden said...

    I'm finding this a very interesting series of posts, and Liz, you are handling the subject well. It probably helps that you have seen both sides of the issue.

    A key, I think, in this debate is the nature of covenants; when baptism is seen as something covenantal, it is no longer an issue of "when" or "how" but of "what" - baptism itself takes on a whole new meaning and the typical anti-infant baptism arguments are deflated.


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